A SURGE in bookings is being celebrated by the Co-operative Movement's travel sector after months of travel scares which knocked consumer confidence.
Travel agents across the UK were dealt a blow after travel warnings were issued by various agencies urging people not to travel to certain areas during the war in Iraq, terrorism attacks in Bali and the spread of SARS virus.
Travel groups across the Movement have all been reporting high booking rates over the past month and also an increase in holidays booked for winter 2003/2004 and next summer too.
Travelcare, part of the Co-operative Group, has experienced increased bookings since the war. Wendy Alcock, Commercial Manager, told the News: "Generally since Easter bookings have been stronger week-on-week and are improving still on last year. People have been expecting a rush like after the Gulf War, but it is turning into a late bookings market at the moment and as a result the past few weeks have been strong."
United Co-op Travel has been one of the highest performers. A spokeswoman for United Co-operatives said: "Bookings are up five per cent on last year since the end of the war in Iraq.
"We are definitely seeing renewed confidence in the travel markets. It is just not late bookings that are successful, we are also seeing many Summer 2004 and Winter 2004 holidays being booked."
United Co-op travel also saw sales in retail branches increase by 10 per cent even though they have pulled back from a 15 per cent deficit. The spokeswoman added: "I think the reason we are performing so well is because of the diversity of the group ? we have retail stores, the internet, telephone home booking service, partners such as Barrow Travel and many other channels we operate through."
Last week BAA reported that it handled a total of 10.9 million passengers in May across seven of its airports, an increase of two per cent on the same month last year.
Despite bookings and passenger numbers being up a spokesman said: "Traffic to and from the Middle East picked up quickly following the end of military action in Iraq.
"However the SARS effect on Far Eastern routes continued into May, with a 35 per cent drop in passengers on those routes. North Atlantic traffic was also impacted by the global geopolitical climate, down seven per cent for the month."
Co-operatives UK's monthly statistics indicate that the Movement as a whole is beginning to experience the trend of increased bookings. Figures show that during April turnover at travel groups across Movement has risen by 0.8 per cent ? May's results expect to show a substantial increase on 2002.